By Maggie Gomez
Re:“Just whose labor are we protecting?,” Aug. 31 Perspective article by Richard D. Lamm.
Home care workers — the majority of whom are immigrant women — are not considered “skilled” workers by our immigration system the way that Silicon Valley engineers are, but their work is vital to our families and our nation’s economy.
Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm would limit immigration to those workers in the tech industry he deems “skilled.” His opinion piece denies the reality of our country’s home care needs, consigning those who deliver this incredibly important care to live in the shadows without protections.
We all want the best care for our parents and grandparents, and we should encourage quality care by treating caregivers fairly. In less than 20 years, 75 million Americans will have reached retirement age and the demand for direct-care workers is projected to increase by 48 percent. We need an immigration system that meets the growing demand for workers in the care industry and recognizes the contributions of immigrant women who care for our loved ones.
Workers are more productive when they are paid fairly, can take sick days and paid family leave, and don’t have to fear recrimination if they need to report abuse. A recent study from the Center for American Progress estimated that granting undocumented individuals legal status would generate more than $6 billion in additional tax revenue during the first year and $45 billion over five years.
Republicans in Congress have refused to act on comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama has the ability to act right now to support our nation’s growing elder population and our immigrant population. He can allow immigrants to remain and work legally in the U.S. without burdensome requirements that exclude women. He can alleviate the 4.3 million backlogged cases in the family visa system that jams the path to citizenship.
It’s time to repair our broken immigration system, and to care for the women who care for our families. It’s time to value the work of immigrant women and give them the protections and rights they need to do their jobs.